Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – ENNIS, TX – It’s been a dominant stretch for the Torrence family at Texas Motorplex, the family’s home track in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and the successful father-son Top Fuel duo hope to keep it going in 2020. They will have an opportunity for a third straight win at the upcoming 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, which takes place Oct. 14-18.
Steve Torrence won two years ago en route to his first world championship, while his father, Billy, won a year ago, enjoying the Texas-sized celebration that came with it. Entering this year’s race, Steve is back on top as the points leader and aiming for his third straight world title in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster, while they’ve combined to win four of the seven races in 2020. Steve earned his third win this season at the most recent NHRA race in Gainesville, and he is locked in with a chance to get another home track win.
“We’ve got some good momentum,” said Steve Torrence, who has 39 career Top Fuel wins. “Both dad and I are doing well, so we’ve just got to stay focused on trying to win a championship. I’ve just got to go do my job. At the end of the day, I can make or break a whole lot of stuff, and these guys give me an incredible race car. I just try to not screw it up.”
Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are all defending winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 18. It is the ninth race during the 2020 NHRA season and Steve Torrence will try to hold off the likes of Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett in Dallas. The Torrence family is also again working with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation at the race, and donated tickets to hundreds of special guests.
After coming close in Gainesville, Funny Car fan-favorite Tim Wilkerson hopes to finish the job in Dallas. He advanced to the final round before falling to Ron Capps, as Don Schumacher Racing picked up its 10th straight win in the class. Wilkerson is the only non-DSR car in the top five, with Jack Beckman currently holding a four-point lead over last year’s winner Hagan, and he would love nothing more than to snap the team’s streak in his 11,000-horsepower Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. He’s performed well since the NHRA restarted its season in July, leaving a victory as the only thing left to get in 2020.
“Our Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang is a great car,” Wilkerson said. “I really thought we were going to win (in Gainesville), but I’m pretty excited about what the next few races are going to look like. Hopefully, we’ll go to the next one and beat one of them (DSR) cars. It’s fun, though. We’ve got nothing to prove. We’re a one-man band with a bunch of guys just doing their best. Richard Hartman (co-crew chief) is such a godsend. I’m lucky to have him and all my guys. It looks like our car is going to keep doing what it’s doing, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Alex Laughlin turned his Pro Stock season around with an impressive performance and victory at Gainesville, but the standout isn’t through yet. He’s after his first career win in the class at the Texas Motorplex, as well as a chance to play a role in the championship picture. Jason Line currently leads reigning world champion and Laughlin’s Elite Motorsports teammate, Erica Enders, by two points, with Jeg Coughlin Jr. close behind. Laughlin sits in fourth in his Havoline Chevrolet Camaro and he’s determined to make a late charge to finish his year on a high note.
“We feel good, and the momentum and confidence of a win definitely helps a ton,” Laughlin said. “I was driving good and feeling good, and I had all the confidence in my car (in Gainesville). When I have that, I feel like I drive a lot better. It’s so hard to win in general, but it would be so awesome to get another win this year. We just have to be prepared and ready to do the best we can, and try to be as competitive as we can when it counts.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith remains locked in as he chases a fourth world championship on his Denso/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR. He won in Gainesville to move into the points lead over MSR teammate Scotty Pollacheck, giving the three-bike team of Smith, his wife, Angie, and Pollacheck plenty of momentum. Longtime rivals Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey are looming, though, and Smith is ready for a thrilling fight to the finish. Krawiec has three wins at Texas Motorplex since 2013, but as far as Smith is concerned, 2020 would be the perfect time to get his first victory at the track.
“We’ve just got to keep everything together,” Smith said. “Anything can happen at anytime, but as far as having the power right now, we’ve got the power to win races and win a championship. We’ve got a good team right now. If we can get Angie’s bike like mine, there’s no reason we can’t all finish in the top five this year. That’s the goal. The overall goal is to win a championship, but the other goal is we all want to win a race and have everyone finish in the top five.”
The event also hosts the sixth race of the 2020 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season. The race is presented by JBS Equipment. The event includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, along with the SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series and the Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
After racing on Friday, Oct. 14, fans will be treated to a thrilling jet car exhibition. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 4:45 p.m. CT on Saturday, Oct. 17. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 17 and at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. Eliminations will be broadcast live beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday on FS1.
JANIS’ SIGHTS SET ON ANOTHER PRO MOD SERIES TITLE RUN HEADING TO RACE AT TX
Each race during the 2020 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season has gotten progressively better for former world champion Mike Janis, pushing him into the points lead in the ultra-competitive class.
Based on his most recent result, that may mean his first victory is coming soon, which would go a long way in the veteran grabbing another world title in his blown Camaro. On the heels of a final round appearance in Gainesville, Janis will have a chance to grab a victory at the upcoming 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, which takes place Oct. 14-18 at Texas Motorplex.
“I think we’re in a really good spot,” said Janis, who has six career NHRA Pro Mod wins. “We’re running well in some tough conditions and that’s been big. I feel really good with our combination and what we’ve been able to do. We keep refining things and we’re excited about what we can do these last few races.”
The race, which is presented by JBS Equipment, is the sixth event of the 2020 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 2 (FS2). It also marks the penultimate race of the year, with the finale taking place later in the month at Las Vegas. That makes it a critical stop for Janis, along with the rest championship contenders, a list that includes reigning world champ Stevie “Fast” Jackson, Chad Green, Jonathan Gray, Khalid alBalooshi, Kris Thorne and Brandon Snider.
All are currently within three rounds of Janis, with Jackson trailing by just 16 points. The parity has been evident thus far in the class, with the first four races featuring four different winners. Janis would like to add his name to the list, especially as the season approaches a critical time.
“We’ve got the car working better than it ever has been,” Janis said. “We’ve been able to adapt to all kinds of track conditions and we’re still getting down the track. That’s been a big deal for us. Having only two qualifying runs makes it tough, but we’ve been able to adapt and it’s actually benefitting us.”
Janis went to the semifinals in back-to-back races at Indy before racing to the finals in Gainesville. It puts the standout in position to win a championship, building his case thanks to a number of consistent performances. Janis has handled the pressure that comes with a world title chase before, knowing full well things could come down to the wire. It could be an exciting duel with the likes of Jackson down the stretch and Janis knows he will have to come up with clutch performances in Dallas.
“It’s definitely a good deal and we’re excited to battle it out,” Janis said. “For us, it’s a matter of getting out of our comfort zone. We’re going to be really aggressive. We’ve got plenty of parts in the trailer. It’s going to be an exciting finish.”
JBS Equipment is the presenting sponsor for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race in Dallas. The company is owned by NHRA Pro Mod competitor Justin Bond, and designs and manufactures the most technologically innovative spreaders, baggers, trailers, boxes and flingers in the industry. Each machine is custom-engineered at its state-of-the-art fabrication plant in Mission, British Colombia, making harvesting and spreading easier and more efficient for agricultural operations in North America.
Featuring the world’s fastest doorslammer race cars, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars.
The first of two E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying sessions takes place at 8:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Oct. 16, with the final session taking place at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18.